Cubs Win

by Mike Yorkey

[This story describes the 2016 MLB season.]

It was the moment Ben Zobrist had dreamed of and probably feared at the same time. The small-town boy from southern Illinois was one swing away from lifting his beloved Cubs to a World Series championship for the first time in 108 years.

In the 10th inning of Game 7, Ben found himself standing at the plate. Two strikes. Go-ahead run in scoring position.

On baseball’s biggest stage and at its biggest moment, Ben delivered. His double to left field made the Cubs World Series champs and earned him MVP honors!

Mr. Versatility
Even before the game-winning hit, Cubs fans loved Ben. And his manager, Joe Maddon, loved his versatility. But if you sat in the grandstands of Wrigley Field in Chicago, it was hard to keep track of him.

There he was—patrolling left field. Wait a minute. Now he’s in right field with the famous ivy-covered outfield wall behind him. At tomorrow’s game, he might be starting at second base. Or shortstop. He even played first base last season to help out his team.

Growing up in Eureka, Illinois, Ben was a huge Cubs fan. He made his major league debut with Tampa Bay in 2006 and enjoyed eight strong years in Florida.

In 2015, Ben was traded briefly to the Oakland Athletics before ending up in Kansas City. He played a big part in the Royals winning the World Series in 2015, but he became a free agent in the offseason.

“I prayed during free agency last year to be a Chicago Cub,” Ben told Cubs fans at the 2016 championship rally. “Thankfully, God and the Cubs made it happen. And I embarked on a journey with these guys to bring this elusive championship.”

Winning Attitude
Prayer has always been an important part of Ben’s life. His dad is the pastor of Liberty Bible Church in Eureka. As the second of five children, Ben says he never felt any extra pressure being the “preacher’s kid.”

Everything centered on competition growing up. During tests at school, Ben had to hand his in first (even though teachers reminded Ben that he didn’t get extra points for finishing first). At the Awana program every Wednesday night, Ben memorized dozens of Bible verses so his vest would have more patches than any other kid.

Ben was also good at sports—youth soccer, football and basketball—but baseball was his favorite. He and his father built a Wiffle ball diamond in the backyard complete with foul lines, a small mound, fences and 20-foot poles mounted with lights. He and his buddies played countless Wiffle ball games late into the evening on warm summer nights.

In high school Ben played football, basketball and baseball, but everyone could see that baseball was his best sport. High school was also the time that Ben made a strong commitment to living the Christian life. During a youth evangelism event in Chicago, he pledged not to hide his faith. He wanted to live it out.

At around this same time, Ben realized that sports—not God—consumed his life.

He remembers getting on his knees and praying, “Lord, You know I need to take sports off the throne. I need to submit all my sports talent to You.”

Ben applied to just one college: Calvary Bible College in Kansas City, Missouri, the same school his dad attended. Calvary didn’t have a baseball team, but Ben felt following God with his future was more important than chasing his personal baseball dreams.

And then an amazing thing happened—God gave him back baseball in a miraculous way.

Great Investment
Two weeks after graduating from high school, Ben’s varsity coach told him that a half-dozen college baseball coaches were holding a tryout to fill a few spots on their rosters. There was just one catch—the tryout cost $50.

Ben’s parents said, “Forget it” when he asked them for the money. Ben thought it would be fun to find out how fast he threw, since the coaches would have radar guns. So he decided to spend the birthday money he received from his grandparents. But he never thought a college coach would want him to come play.

At the tryout, Ben ran a 60-yard dash, threw for the radar gun, fielded five ground balls and took 12 swings in the batter’s box. Based on his performance, the head baseball coach at Olivet Nazarene University offered Ben a full-ride baseball scholarship.

Seven years later, Ben walked onto the field for the Tampa Bay Rays.

“I’ve been blessed far more than I ever deserved or expected in this game,” Ben says.

But if he hadn’t paid $50 of his own money and shown up at that tryout, he never would’ve made it to the major leagues.

Now that’s something only God could orchestrate.

This story first appeared in the June 2017 issue of Clubhouse magazine. Copyright © 2017 Mike Yorkey. Photos © Arturo Pardavila III/Flickr.com; used under Creative Commons license.